What protocol do you follow when a dog bites you or your child?

asked 2016-05-06 23:02:21 -0500

A dog bit my child when we went to meet the owner and her two dogs I am due to begin caring for (at her house) tomorrow. I contacted Ask-a-nurse and Rover. Ask-a-nurse (in addition to advising me on medical treatment of the wound) pushed me towards reporting the bite to the authorities. I don't think it's a serious bite but serious enough to have some concern. It seemed hard to believe that every bite should be reported so I contacted Rover and asked and they had no recommended steps to follow. They were only interested in talking to me about medical costs should any come about. I asked specifically about whether I was supposed to report it, and they said I should look up rules for my state. Our county requires owners to report any abrasions their dogs cause to animal control. I let the owner know because I didn't know what to do. I'm new to doing this professionally. And despite my lifelong exposure to dogs, and casual sitting for friends, I haven't seen any wounds this bad so I didn't know what to do. The owner said she'd call animal control after I sent her the info, and I haven't heard back since. I feel very anxious about all this. I don't want to get people and dogs unnecessarily in trouble. What do you do, if anything, if you or a loved one is bitten by one of your charges?

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Your child should not have been with you during a meet & greet. This is your opportunity to asses the dog's behavior and temperment. In my opinion, your child should not be present while you are providing services outside of your own home. Rover Now has specific policies regarding this.

Jessica C.'s profile image Jessica C.  ( 2020-01-16 06:44:33 -0500 ) edit

9 Answers

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answered 2016-05-07 18:11:37 -0500

All bites requiring medical attention are serious bites. Nix that. ALL bites are serious bites*. A dog who has bitten once is unlikely to respond less forcefully to the same provocation in the future. In fact, without skilled intervention, bites tend to escalate in severity over time, as the dog learns that 1) biting works at getting whatever they're worried about to go away, and 2) the more force they use, the better and faster it works. Once a dog has bitten, the more readily they will bite in the future, and those future bites are most likely to be as bad or worse than the previous bites.

There may be plenty of mitigating circumstances that need to be taken into account, but that doesn't make the bite less serious. Imagine a dog who doesn't like to have her nails clipped. Of course, you have to keep her nails clipped because it's good for her, but she doesn't understand that. She knows she doesn't like it, and she wants you to stop. She might whine and try to get away from you, but that doesn't work. She might cry louder and struggle harder, but that doesn't work. She might give you little growls, but you shush her and continue. She might nip at your hands, not wanting to hurt you, but wanting you desperately to stop. Finally she might bite hard enough to draw blood. You finally stop. She's finally found something that works. It sucks, but you understand and you don't think to report it. But what if a neighbor kid approaches this dog--this dog who knows people grabbing her paws means BAD THINGS and only biting hard enough to injure makes the BAD THINGS stop--and reaches for her paw, wanting her to shake?

Your child may have been the first, but probably not. This dog has probably had a series of escalating bites and the issue hasn't been satisfactorily addressed. A report may be bad for the dog, but it may be the wake up call the owners need, and it may be necessary documentation if it happens again.

*I'm not talking about puppy nipping/play biting or accidental tooth-to-skin contact, though these can also be concerning depending on the circumstances. I'm talking about biting as a reaction to a perceived threat intended to dissuade or injure.

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answered 2016-05-07 08:59:43 -0500

I understand your concerns about not wanting to report the dog to the authorities. You didn't explain the circumstances either, i.e., what was happening that resulted in the dog biting your child or how the owner reacted. But you might want to look at it this way. What if everyone felt the same way and erred on the side of not only leniency but assumed it was a one-off thing. If the dog isn't reported, then how will you know that it hasn't occurred before. What if this dog has a history of biting? In the future, you should probably leave your children at home when you are doing drop-in visits.

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We homeschool, so the kids will be with me a lot on meet and greets and visits. But they will probably wait outside in future. In this particular case, my husband and I both had to go to the meet and greet because he was going to help me with it. Also the dogs were supposedly ok with kids.

Elisabeth H.'s profile image Elisabeth H.  ( 2016-05-09 12:45:12 -0500 ) edit
answered 2016-05-07 11:46:34 -0500

Since you are concerned about the bite, I would report it to the authorities. You don't know what this dog's history is, maybe it's the first bite, maybe not. You have to err on the side of caution in events like this. Since you said your county requires you to report this, you would be breaking the law in not doing so. I would report it just in case the owner did not.

What concerns me is your statement that you have not seen wounds this bad. Make sure your child gets medical treatment immediately. The hospital or clinic may provide further information on reporting, or they may report it themselves.

I would definitely not bring your child to this house while you are visiting, and I would not bring them to any M&G or booked visits either. The child is an added unnecessary distraction to the animal.

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The owner is required to report it. I don't think I would have been breaking any laws. The wound was bad but not bad. It's hard to explain. I consulted multiple med professionals by phone, and urgent care said don't come in. It's being monitored by fam/friends who are med pros.

Elisabeth H.'s profile image Elisabeth H.  ( 2016-05-09 12:47:04 -0500 ) edit

I have to bring them on many M&G and visits because we homeschool. But they will be waiting outside in the future.

Elisabeth H.'s profile image Elisabeth H.  ( 2016-05-09 12:47:36 -0500 ) edit
answered 2016-05-29 23:44:27 -0500

In general I would NEVER leave any child under the age of 17 with ANY dog. Period. Especially one you never have meet before. In the future I would only allow the children around the dog after you've seen how they behaved. Some dogs are rough in play, some get startled easily, some are just older and don't want to be bothered. It doesn't mean the kid was being mean, doesn't mean the dog is aggressive. It just means they need to be supervised.

I live in Nebraska and by law you have to report any dog bite that breaks skin. It's not to get the dog in trouble, its to check for rabies. Remind the owner that legally you have to report it to obey the law. Remind them you want to be honest and its for everyone's protection. If any owner has an issue with that, realistically you wouldn't want business from them.

Hope everything is going better. I got bit by a Mastiff that required 30 stitches, so I know first hand the healing process can take a while. Use this as a learning experience and know that you probably won't ever have to worry about such an issue again.

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answered 2020-01-11 17:10:07 -0500

I know this post is old , but it deserves renewed attention.

If you can't do dog sitting without the kids onsite, give up sitting, or make arrangements so your children never come in contact with strange dogs. Leaving them in the car alone is against the law BTW.

Human safety ALWAYS come first.

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answered 2019-09-06 05:36:55 -0500

You didn't witness the bite and your son said it was play. It wasn't a serious wound (you say bite when it sounds like a nip) and you have no idea what instigated it. I personally don't trust kids with dogs until I know the kid. I think it was terribly unfair to the client that you brought your kids in for a meet and greet, was not watching them with the dogs enough to have witnessed the interaction and reported it anyway, only to see the poor dogs quarantined. I have Australian Shepherds. My neighbor came in one day with her toddler and he grabbed one of the dogs by the hair and wouldn't let go. From that day on I protected my dogs from kids until I knew they were safe. They are my children. YOU are supposed to be the professional. Your kids should not have been on a meet and greet and not be supervised 110% of the time. As well as on the job as a sitter! This is unfortunately the kind of thing that gives Rover sitters a bad rap. Absolutely not, I would not have personally reported it. I hope you have it clearly on your profile that you have two children and they will be in the clients home and with the dogs, unsupervised at times.

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answered 2016-05-09 12:53:13 -0500

Thank you all for your comments. They are incredibly helpful. I didn't witness it fully so I don't know what kind of bite it was, if it was aggressive or not. The dogs are definitely not well trained. My son thought it was in play, but do dogs bite that hard in play? I haven't seen it. Again, I'm new to being pro, but I'm not new to dogs. I just think dogs bite sometimes. But aggressive bites I know are much more concerning. It just felt awful to report this dog/owner. But she reported it and I communicated with animal control as well. The dogs are going to be quarantined for 14 days. We're watching the wound, but medical professionals weren't super concerned with it. We're just watching for signs of infection and keeping it clean. I'm sending daily pictures of it to wound specialists I know. I researched the heck out of both the bite and the law when this happened. I just felt like it seemed overkill to report (to the law!) every single bite that happens. I wanted to hear from actual sitters to know what your usual protocol is when things like this happen. Thank you so much for your answers. I'll feel more confident in reporting things in the future.

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Dogs who never learned proper bite inhibition (generally dogs who were removed from their litters too early and weren't adequately socialized) may accidentally injure during play, but I'd expect any wounds from play to be superficial scrapes/cuts. Punctures indicate a much different intention.

Laura R.'s profile image Laura R.  ( 2016-05-09 20:16:24 -0500 ) edit

Punctures would indicate the dog intended to do harm. The location of the wounds can also reveal useful information about intention. Dogs who intend to injure/disable tend to go for the limbs/trunk rather than the extremities like the face or hands, which are more likely intended to be warnings.

Laura R.'s profile image Laura R.  ( 2016-05-09 20:19:20 -0500 ) edit
answered 2018-07-17 19:26:56 -0500

I am just glad to hear it all ended up good. The only protocol would be not to ever let a child to be in a situation where a dog can bite him. I can assure you ALL dogs can bite and all dogs have sharp teeth even if people tell you their dog NEVER bitten anyone. Ever seen a dog crushing a bone with their teeth? Even when playing, dog can bite HARD, accidentally or out of play when they get seriously over excited. Doesn't mean they are aggressive. But again still animals.

Even broken skin doesn't mean the dog wanted to kill you like the other person here thinks. I personally played a game with a shepherd. We both reached for the ball the same second but the ball and my hand ended up in his mouth.... doesn't mean he was looking to do harm or eat me for dinner. It happens. They are dogs, not people.

All bites are supposed to be reported. But it's your call. Rover can't tell you what to do, they don't tell you what to do. You're an independent contractor.

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answered 2020-01-16 06:40:38 -0500

Always file a police report. Always seek medical attention even if you do not feel it is required. You do not have to press charges - you just need to make sure you protect yourself in terms of health and liability. I used to work in the Health Insurance industry and you would not believe how many problems are caused in terms of injuries because there was no paper trail to document the incident. You are operating a business as a Rover contractor - your health and safety must come first or it can create an issue for your potential future earnings.

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answered 2020-01-11 16:18:04 -0500

I guess my biggest concern here is that you are so much more concerned about the dog than your child.

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